Whether they’re running small independent businesses or leading large-scale corporations, female entrepreneurs are making their mark on the business scene now more than ever. There are increased efforts to support more women in business, but a large inconsistency remains between the number of female versus male business owners. Commonly cited obstacles include fear of failure against their male counterparts, and a lack of female mentors from which young entrepreneurs can learn.
Luckily, these dilemmas are being seen and addressed, with many organizations taking different approaches towards proactively eliminating the problem. Here are some key resources to help more female entrepreneurs get further along the road to success.
Grants and Micro-lending
In order to get a business up and running, sometimes a bit of a cash flow kickstart is necessary. Across Canada many organizations are focusing on giving a leg up to the ideas of young women entrepreneurs. Examples include:
- In 2013, the Ontario government released $760,000 to assist low-income women become entrepreneurs. The initiative includes financial training and microloans ranging from $500 to $5,000.
- Various provincial organizations across the country are focused on kick starting women entrepreneur’s businesses. Some of these may include: Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan and Alberta, and the Women’s Enterprise Centers of Manitoba and British Columbia (all who provide small business loans of up to $100,000).
- For entrepreneurs still furthering their education in undergrad or grad school, there are targeted scholarship opportunities available for women. RBC, for example, runs a program called the RBC Capital Markets Scholarship for Women that aims to recognize and reward outstanding Canadian female undergraduate business, engineering and economics students who are interested in pursuing a career in banking and finance. Also, HSBC Bank Canada and Enactus Canada collaborate each year to recognize female Enactus students who inspire their peers, community and country through entrepreneurial leadership as HSBC Women Leaders of Tomorrow. The Schulich School of Business at York University also has a number of bursary programs targeted specifically at female students. Check with your local school’s financial aid department to see if similar bursaries or scholarships are available at your institution.
Mentorship Workshops and Networks
Although the money won’t actually be dropped in your lap, mentorship workshops and networks in Canada show young women where to find it. They are popping up across the nation to connect young ladies with the people and resources they need to get their businesses up and running. In many cases the mentorship is free. Examples include:
- Supporting the mentorship of female entrepreneurs across Canada is a prime objective of the Government of Canada’s Status of Women site. In addition to providing links of mentorship programs available coast to coast, the site is also home to valuable resources, a mentorship toolkit, and a specific campaign #BeHerChampion to encourage leaders in all sectors to make a difference in women’s careers.
- Founded in 2001, the Women in Leadership (WIL) organization is a national non-profit established to increase the number of women in leadership roles, provide education and mentorship on pertinent leadership topics and aid in tearing down barriers to success. There are chapters across Canada, as well as useful coaching and training tools.
- CanWIT has a National Mentoring Program that connects young women in technology to mentors. It also has chapters in major cities across the country and runs regular networking and mentoring events.
With these and other resources emerging through new partnerships and collaborations, more women are finding the support they need to get their business ideas off the ground. Ideally this will enable more women to see their ideas mature from a fledgling startup to a successful and sustainable small business.
Photo Copyright: Peshkova